The perpetually metamorphosing race that is La Course will return next week for the eighth — and possibly final — edition (on 27th June). The much-fêted Tour de France Femmes was confirmed on the 2022 calendar and as a result La Course appeared to have been scrapped by ASO.
This year, the organisers moved the race a day earlier with just months to spare in order to make way for local elections in the area — the equivalent stage of the men’s Tour stayed in place.
The 107.4km race will start in Brest and finish with three laps of a 14km circuit incorporating three ascents of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups in Landerneau before finishing atop a fourth ascent of the same climb.
For more details on the route, see the full Rouleur La Course preview.
With just over one week to go until the race there is still very little information out there about who will take to the startline in Brest. The proximity to the Giro d’Italia Donne, formerly known as the Giro Rosa, which starts less than one week after La Course, might deter some.
In Annemiek van Vleuten’s case it is the Olympics that has won out over the 10th round of the Women’s World Tour. The former World Champion will be sitting it out after stating via her personal website that she is concentrating all of her efforts on the Tokyo Olympic Games and will also be forfeiting the Giro d’Italia Donne.
Aside from a lack of Van Vleuten, however, the startlist is currently anyone’s guess. So with the assumption that the usual Women’s WorldTour crowd will be present, let’s see who could be on track to win.
Photo credit: Alex Broadway/SWPix.com
Marianne Vos - Team Jumbo Visma
The force of nature that is Marianne Vos hasn’t unleashed her powers since Liege-Bastogne-Liege on the 24th April — where she came 6th. The Dutchwoman had a strong Classics season with no fewer than six top-10 results including two wins at Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel Gold Race. It’s still unclear as to whether she will line up at La Course but she has raced every WorldTour race so far with the exception of Vuelta a Burgos and if she does line up in Brest then the punchy course will play perfectly to her strengths.
Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini - Trek-Segafredo
At last year’s edition of La Course, Lizzie Deignan and teammate Elisa Longo Borghini gave a racing masterclass as they whittled down the select group and then outfoxed Marianne Vos to make way for Deignan to take the win. The pair played a perfect one-two on their formidable Dutch rival but we have seen very little of their two-up tactics this season as Deignan has been sidelined with an illness. The British rider appears to have since recovered, exhibited by her win at the Tour de Suisse recently, but does she have enough racing in her legs to defend her 2020 title?
With or without Deignan, Longo Borghini has been on flying form in 2021 starting with her emphatic victory at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. The Italian rider will almost certainly be targeting the Giro d’Italia Donne which means her appearance at La Course is not a given, however if she is in Brest next Saturday then she cannot be discounted as a prime contender.
Photo credit: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com
Anna van der Breggen - SD Worx
It would be remiss to not add Anna van der Breggen to a list of favourites to win any race she deigns to start. The seemingly imperturbable World Champion gives the impression that when she chooses to win a race, she will win it one way or another. Again, there is no certainty to her presence at La Course as she will also be a hot favourite for the Giro d’Italia Donne and the Olympic Games, but if Van der Breggen makes an appearance it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to also see her raising her arms at the finish line unless she decides to go all in for her protégé...
Demi Vollering - SD Worx
Demi Vollering has arrived this season. The 24-year-old was already making waves for a few years before joining SD Worx but since securing her spot on the team she has flourished.
Vollering took her first WorldTour victory at Liége-Bastogne-Liége in the Spring and had impressive form in Spain last month coming second at Emakumeen Nafarroako Women's Elite Classics and putting in an almighty effort on stage four of Vuelta a Burgos Feminas to set Van der Breggen up for the win and take third overall for herself. She is fast becoming the heir apparent to Van der Breggen’s impressive all-rounder talent and also packs a fast finish, meaning if the race came down to a select group over the final climb she is a strong contender.
Photo credit: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com
Kasia Niewiadoma - Canyon//SRAM
Canyon//SRAM’s Polish climber has had an impressively consistent season thus far but has come just shy of winning a few times, not yet making it to the top step in 2021. The punchy course with its multiple climbs will suit Niewiadoma’s strengths and she might even be able to pull off a long-range attack on the right day.
Her team, Canyon//SRAM have yet to take a World Tour victory this season and so both Niewiadoma and her team will be on the hunt for their first win of 2021 at La Course. The team have options, however, with up-and-coming youngster Mikayla Harvey waiting in the wings if Niewiadoma doesn’t have the legs on the day.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig - FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig finally got the WWT win monkey off her back at Vuelta a Burgos Feminas last month. The popular Danish rider will be feeling confident after beating the best in the world on the hilltop finish on stage three and hoping she can replicate her efforts in Landerneau.
She may be targeting one of her other near-misses, however, in the form of avenging her fourth-place on GC at the Giro d’Italia Donne in 2020 and it’s still unclear whether her preparation for that race involves La Course.
Photo credit: David Powell
Lotte Kopecky - Liv Racing
If Lotte Kopecky has the climbing legs on the day she will be a favourite to sprint to the win from a reduced group. The rest of the bunch will be looking to shell the fast finishers by making the climbs as hard as possible but if Kopecky can hang on she can deliver from a group, especially as the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups flattens out over the top.
Grace Brown - Team BikeExchange
Talented time trial specialist Grace Brown has made a name for herself as a breakaway artist in recent years. Her memorable solo ride to victory at Brabantse Pijl in 2020 came as a surprise at the time but the 28-year-old Australian has already managed to replicate the move at the Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne in March. If she can break the elastic and escape from the bunch at La Course she may well make it to the line.
Joscelin Lowden - Drops Le Col s/b Tempur
The British rider hasn't raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège however her 5th place at this year's Brabantse Pijl on a similarly punchy course could make her an outside bet, especially from a breakaway. Plus, given this race's proximity to the Giro d'Italia Donne and the Olympic Games the field may well be similar to the 1.1 Brabantse Pijl despite its World Tour status.
Elisa Balsamo - Valcar Travel and Service
Another fast finisher who can get over the climbs, the 23-year-old took the win at GP Oetingen in March as well as an impressive run of top-10s in some of the Classics. If she can make it to the finish with a select group she could just steal the victory.
Cover image: Thomas Maheux/SWPix.com